The prestigious Harper’s Magazine features the recent Modern Cosmism conference (New York, October 10, 2015) in an article titled Everything That Rises, published online and in the January 2016 issue of the print magazine.
“I have come to perceive a cosmos filled with superintelligent beings,” writes John Crowley. “The beings are ourselves a thousand or ten thousand years in the future, networked across galactic distances and accompanied by every human consciousness that has ever existed, resurrected from the abysm of time by quantum recovery techniques that even now can be shown not to violate the laws of physics.”
Crowley shows interest in, and an essentially positive evaluation of, the ideas discussed at the conference by Vlad Bowen, Ben Goertzel, James Hughes, Randal Koene, myself, and other friends.
Of course, Crowley has some caveats and qualifications. “Sometimes our speakers seemed not to respect that ‘possible within the laws of physics’ doesn’t mean ‘practicable,’ much less ‘on its way to us now,'” he says. “Paradoxically, the old cosmist visions, despite their extravagance and insubstantiality, can seem richer and more immediate than modern cosmism’s projects because they lack the drag of investment in actual, practical processes, which can seem primitive and doubtful, even wrongheaded.”
Actually I expressed similar qualifications in my talk: I guess contemporary ideas will seem naive to future scientists, just like Fedorov’s ideas seem naive to us. (see also: Technological resurrection concepts from Fedorov to Quantum Archaeology.)
Crowley concludes with a reference to Columbus, “a voyager who only dimly knew where he was going, and was wrong about where he arrived,” but is today celebrated in a brilliant, glittering, magic city – New York, in the new world that he discovered. Similarly, I think, our first stumbling steps on the road to space colonization, mind uploading, and Akashic physics, will eventually make the whole universe a brilliant, glittering, magic place.
A few excerpts of Crowley’s article are pasted below. Read the rest at Harper’s Magazine.
Over the course of the day the Russian cosmist tradition of past centuries was mentioned and honored as inspiration, but this conference was forward-looking to a high degree: the focus was on new cosmism, not old.
We receive life from our mothers and fathers; our duty is to reverse the process and give life back to them. That is the “common task” [Fedorov] said was set for humanity. Fedorov considered his immense project to be actually workable, achievable by as yet undiscovered technologies.
[Fedorov’s] ideas may only superficially resemble things like digitally uploaded minds and DNA, but the modern cosmists’ impulses and aspirations really do reflect Fedorovian ones: transforming humans into posthumans, achieving immortality, leaving Earth, expanding experience.
The brain is the substrate on which our information is stored and with which it is computed, but, the [substrate-independent minds] suggestion goes, it might be able to run on different hardware. Minds running on machine substrates can interface at speeds many times faster than our present abilities permit, and without error.
James Hughes, our conference transhumanist, suggested that if the self is an illusion, as Buddhists such as himself hold, then it can’t matter what devices and instantiations the so-called self might pass through.
Ben Goertzel predicts the appearance of an ultra-intelligent machine that would design better machines than people could. [This] is the much-talked-of (in these quarters at least) technological singularity, the point at which machines will create their own successors and incorporate all of us into their replications and thus their immortality.
Could quantum entanglement – the mysterious instant correlation of distantly separated subatomic particles – eventually make possible the connecting of every space-time moment to every other, and permit instant data channels between different places, different times, and different universes? If so, maybe “quantum archaeology” really could bring the dead back from when and where they are alive. Of course this would only allow the transmission of information, not stuff: Information You could cross time and space at the speed of light, but not the meat package that contains it, which by then will have been left behind anyway. At the conference, this vision was put before us by Giulio Prisco, a physicist and computer scientist, and a founding member of the wittily named Turing Church. (The Church–Turing hypothesis in mathematics defines what can be calculated by a “Turing machine,” that is, a computer.)
Read the rest at Harper’s Magazine.